2 May 2021

Keeping going when all seems lost: Acts 25:1-12

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1 Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. 2 And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, 3 asking as a favour against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem—because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way. 4 Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he himself intended to go there shortly. 5 “So,” said he, “let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.”   6 After he stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. 7 When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove. 8 Paul argued in his defence, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” 9 But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favour, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” 10 But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. 11 If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” 12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”

Question 1: Think of a time when all seemed lost.
How did you respond? Why did you respond in this way? Looking back, how do you feel about the way you responded now?

Patience

Paul has been imprisoned for two years. He must have felt that his call to spread the Gospel was severely at risk. He must have felt very low at times and frustrated. Yet he seems to keep going. Three things in particular seem to keep him going. Firstly, his patience / forbearance.

Question 2: Paul speaks of patience as a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). How can we develop patience and forbearance like Paul?

Question 3: Paul also speaks of being able to be content in all circumstances (Philippians 4:11-13)? Can you relate to this, and how can we get to be like this?

Purpose

Paul is convinced that God wants him to spread the Gospel message (Acts 23:11) and this over-riding purpose drives him on and enables him to endure suffering and frustration.

Question 4: To what extent do you think that we each have a God-given purpose and plan (c.f. Romans 8:28)?

Question 5: How do you think this is revealed to us? To what extent do you sense yours?

Question 6: To what extent have you pursued God’s purposes for your life? What has helped or hampered this?

Question 7: Has knowing that you are pursuing God’s plan for your life enabled you to endure hardship and keep going when you might otherwise have given up?

Question 8: Paul experiences sustained opposition from the Jewish authorities – it doesn’t abate even though he’s been in prison for two years.
When have you experienced opposition, and how did you respond? How might you respond differently today?
To what extent do you expect and prepare for opposition when pursuing what you feel is for the Lord?

Partnership

Although Paul is convinced God intends him to reach Rome, he still has to step out in faith and partner with God. Paul appeals to Caesar rather than face the risk of returning to Jerusalem and being ambushed on route. God then uses an unwitting Festus to ensure he reaches Rome.

Question 9: To what extent do you just pray to God for help when all seems to be going awry (c.f. Psalm 91:2) and / or take action yourself? How do you discern when it is right to step out boldly?

Question 10: Festus had no idea of the spiritual dimension of what was at stake or what he was doing.
How can we, and the wider church, ensure our leaders (at all levels of authority) are more aware of wider spiritual questions when they take decisions?